May 04, 2008

Voting, Confrontation and Violence in Santa Cruz

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50 minutes into the referendum of Santa Cruz, voting as usual and confrontation as expected is the result.

First of all, reports show that in many areas in the city of Santa Cruz, voting is already taking place. Neighborhoods such as Equipetrol, have opened their voting places, and people are lining up to vote.

However, as expected, hot spots like Yapacani, San Julian and Plan Tres Mil are proving troublesome. For example, there were already violent confrontations with wounded in Yapacani. Television reports show an armed group of people (around 30 to 40) arriving in mass and practically attacking the voting place, destroying the ballot boxes and physically attacking the jurors and the people representing the departmental electoral court. According to the leader of that group, these people are being driven around to specifically close the voting places. As expected, voting is very irregular in Yapacani.

In San Julian, the problems are less violent, but equally the people are trying, with any means, to close these voting places. Voting is very irregular in this region.

In Plan Tres Mil, there were also violent confrontations between armed MAS supporters and members of the Union Juvenil Crucenista. This time the UJC wins the confrontation and takes control of the voting place. The municipal police arriving and taking control of the situation. The voting place is currently opened and voting is taking place. But, who knows for how long.

It seems as though there are what Bolivians call, grupos de choque (clashing groups) on both sides. These groups are in charge of physically support the government's and the opposition's aims. On the government's side, the groups are trying to stop the voting, and on the opposition's side, the groups are trying to keep people voting.

The organizers are saying that, even though there are problems, normalcy is winning irregularity.

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